With flying often being the most expensive part of a trip, we all need to know how to get the best possible deal on a flight.
Ideally it would be paid for completely by points. But what if you’re not that frequent a flyer? What if you don’t rack up points on a credit card with expenses that get reimbursed by your employer? What if you’re just the average traveler with an average job?
Start by signing up for a travel rewards credit card and use it for every purchase possible. (Read Decide on the Right Travel Rewards Card.) But those points are for the future. You need solutions now. So here you are…
10 Simple Steps to Getting the Best Deal on Flights
Start looking about 3 months out. If you’re a travel planner as opposed to a spontaneous traveler, start your search at least three months out. The sweet spot for getting the best deal on a flight is supposed to be 8 to 12 weeks before flying. However that doesn’t mean you will definitely get the best deal at that point. Start then to get the lay of the land. Check out this Skyscanner blog link that shows the best times to book for their 50 top destinations and what you’re likely to save if you do so. Scroll down to check it out.
Shift your dates a bit if possible. Rather than booking specific dates for your vacation, try to pencil in a range of dates and confirm the actual days later. This will give you the option of running your holidays in the typical Monday to Monday pattern or shifting to Tuesday to Tuesday or Wednesday to Wednesday – the data suggests that you might get a better price flying on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Search incognito. Cookies are like a trail of breadcrumbs you leave behind you as you search the net – but they’re not for you to retrace your steps. They are for the websites to know what you’ve been doing on their site, like searching for fares to a specific destination. Once they know what you’re looking for and you return to check the fares again they can manipulate the results. Search without cookies so that the fares aren’t manipulated. This is how Google tells you to do it. You can also use Duck Duck Go as your search engine or use private browsing in your favorite browser. Here’s how to turn on private browsing in Firefox.
Use an aggregator to comparison shop. Start with an aggregator search engine such as Skyscanner, Momondo or Airfarewatchdog. (If you are searching European destinations check out GoEuro which will give you train and bus options as well.) There are a quite a few aggregators. These sites search many airlines and booking engines (Google Flights, Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity…) giving you a list of your options. This is valuable because not every booking engine will retrieve results on all the possible flights from one airport to another. Multiple aggregators broaden your search.
Set up price alerts. With your favorite aggregator, or aggregators, set up a price alert through their app so that you get an immediate alert on your phone when there’s a price drop.
Always check the airline’s site. Always do this as sometimes you can make worthwhile savings.
Know the short-term cancellation policy. It’s important to know the cancellation policy in your jurisdiction. The cancellation policy could also be helpful if a “price alert” goes off indicating a dropped fare within your cancellation window. If it does, you know what to do.
Choose your destination based on your budget. Booking sites like Skyscanner give you the option of entering “everywhere” into the destination search field. They then deliver a list of flights from your departure airport starting from cheapest to the more expensive.
Find fare mistakes. This happens more often than you would think. It might be due to human error a computer glitch but, regardless, mistakes are made and sometimes incredible deals are on offer.Check out sites like Secret Flying or follow them on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with the latest deals.
Avoid the extras that add up. Check what’s included in your flight. Are there baggage fees? Learn our Bare Minimum Packing tips for relaxed or fashionable travel. Watch the weight restriction for your carry-on as well as any checked luggage. If food is not being served on the flight bring your own. Load your phone with a Kindle book rather than be tempted to buy at the airport book shop. The Kindle app is free.